10 secrets for planting and growing broccoli in your garden
Broccoli, one of the most delicious and healthy vegetables that we plant in the autumn season and enjoy in the winter. Although it is a biennial plant, broccoli is grown as an annual, as well as cauliflower with which they have many common characteristics and a similar way of cultivation.
Broccoli has a high nutritional value, as it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber. In addition, broccoli is low in calories, which makes it very popular in weight loss diets.
It is worth mentioning that what we eat as “broccoli” is not the fruit of the plant, but it is essentially its flower. Specifically, the inflorescences of the plant together with the underdeveloped buds form the flower head of broccoli which has a diameter of 10-15 cm and is the well-known vegetable we eat. The cultivation of broccoli does not have many requirements and we can have production from broccoli even in a pot on the balcony. Let’s see in detail below which varieties of broccoli we choose, as well as tips to enjoy fresh and delicious broccoli for our most beautiful cooking.
1. What varieties of broccoli do we choose to grow?
There are many local and traditional varieties of broccoli to plant, as well as imported varieties and hybrids with special characteristics. The broccoli varieties are grouped according to the harvest season, the number of broccoli they produce, and the color of the flower head. A basic categorization of broccoli varieties that can be grown are the following:
- Early varieties of broccoli: Early varieties of broccoli produce in 2 months and are harvested early, even in late autumn.
- Late broccoli varieties: The late broccoli varieties give production in 3-4 months and are harvested by the growers mainly during the winter period.
- Single-headed broccoli: Broccoli varieties that give only one large central flower head during cultivation. This is especially appreciated by professional growers due to the larger broccoli but also the concentrated production that reduces the cost of harvest.
- Purple broccoli: In addition to the classic green broccoli, we will find different varieties of purple broccoli as the color of the flower head varies in different shades of purple. Purple-headed varieties are more resistant to temperature fluctuations during the growing season.
2. What conditions are needed to grow broccoli?
Broccoli is a cold-season plant and needs a cool environment to thrive. The ideal temperature for the growth of the broccoli flower head is between 15-20 degrees Celsius. Broccoli grows best in sunny places and gives us rich production. If we plant broccoli in a semi-shady position, its ripening is significantly delayed. Regarding the soil, broccoli grows best in cool and fertile soils with good drainage, while it does not thrive in very acidic and alkaline soils. Before planting broccoli, we can improve soil fertility by adding organic matter by incorporating manure and compost into the soil.
3. When do we plant broccoli and at what distances?
The broccoli is planted from the beginning of August until the end of October, depending on the variety and the climatic conditions of the area where we grow. To create new broccoli plants from seed, we need 6-7 weeks until they are transplanted to the final cultivation sites. Ideal temperatures for seed germination and plant growth are between 20-25 degrees Celsius.
We can, of course, procure ready-made broccoli plants from nurseries or agricultural stores. Suitable planting distances for broccoli are in rows that are 70-80 cm apart and 40-50 cm between plants. When planting broccoli, we can cover the soil with various mulch materials such as wood chips, straw, or pine bark to retain moisture and treat unwanted grass.
4. How can we plant broccoli in a pot?
Broccoli can be grown in pots on the balcony or in the yard and give us a very good production. As broccoli loves the sun, we make sure to place the pot in a sunny spot facing south or west, in order to have better growth and fruiting. For transplanting broccoli in a pot, we prefer relatively deep and large pots with a diameter and depth of 25-30 cm. We choose good quality topsoil, special for vegetables that ensure good drainage to remove water from the soil. Alternatively, we can create our own planting mix by mixing fluffy garden topsoil, manure, compost, and perlite in a ratio of 6: 2: 1: 1.
5. How often does broccoli cultivation need watering?
Broccoli is less demanding than cauliflower and cabbage in terms of watering. Indicatively, in the autumn period, we water 2-3 times a week, depending of course on the rainfall that we have during this period. For broccoli that we have planted in a pot, we repeat the watering only when the soil dries. It should be noted that in conditions of excessive soil moisture, broccoli is susceptible to fungal diseases that cause rot and tanning on the plant. On the contrary, when watering the broccoli is not enough, the flower head becomes smaller and the quality of production deteriorates significantly.
6. How often do we add fertilizer to the cultivation of broccoli?
Growing broccoli has low nutrient requirements and does not require large amounts of fertilizer to achieve a good production. When planting broccoli, we recommend adding manure and compost to the soil to help the plant grow. During the cultivation of broccoli, we put a complete organic fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium once a month. Avoid adding too much nitrogen fertilizer, as too much nitrogen contributes to the softening and quality degradation of the broccoli flower head.
7. What insects and diseases infect broccoli?
The cultivation of broccoli has the same problems with diseases and insects that affect the cultivation of cabbage and the cultivation of cauliflower. In particular, the cultivation of broccoli is often affected by the caterpillar of the cabbage that eats its leaves. Also, from the insect of meligra, the floury, the stinky ones, as well as from the nightshade. For the ecological treatment of the insects that infect broccoli, we use organic insecticides that we procure from agricultural stores, such as Thuringia bacillus, potassium salts, and natural pyrethrum. Alternatively, for the preventive treatment of insects, we can make an improvised recipe with garlic and pepper, as we mention in detail in the article on the protection of plants with natural ingredients.
In conditions of high humidity, the cultivation of broccoli is affected by various fungal diseases that cause yellowing or tanning of the foliage and shoots, such as downy mildew, Alternaria, Fusarium, and rhizoids. To deal with them, we use organic copper preparations that we procure from agricultural stores. Alternatively, for preventive protection against diseases, we can spray the broccoli foliage with an improvised solution that we make by dissolving 1 tablespoon of baking soda in two liters of water. One of the important enemies of broccoli cultivation is the snails that eat its leaves. To treat snails on broccoli, place ashes around the plants or use beer in cups that we have provided on the ground to trap the snails.
8. When is the time to harvest broccoli?
The broccoli is ready for harvest usually 2-3 months after transplanting in the field, when the flower heads are tight, they have a size of 9-13 cm in diameter and their weight is close to 500 grams. In the varieties with broccoli, we have a longer harvest time, about 1-2 months longer, as we said, after cutting the central broccoli, small lateral shoots develop that will give other smaller broccoli that we will harvest later.
9. How can we preserve broccoli for longer?
To keep the broccoli fresh, it is important to cut a part of the central stem with leaves together with the flower head during the harvest. Broccoli should be cut early in the morning and then placed in a nylon bag in the refrigerator to be stored for several days. If we want to store the broccoli for a longer period of time, we follow the following procedure: Cut the tufts of broccoli and put them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Allow the broccoli to dry and return to room temperature. Place the broccoli in the freezer, where it can be stored for 12 months.
10. And one last secret for growing broccoli
If we do not have much space in our garden, broccoli can be planted more densely and grow harmoniously along with potato cultivation, onion cultivation, garlic cultivation, leek cultivation, dill cultivation, and fennel cultivation. The co-cultivation of vegetables, in addition to saving space, helps in the better utilization of water from the roots of the plants, the nutrients of the soil, and the fertilizer that we add.